Court Fiasco



Court Fiasco

Yet another incredible Court related farce in Bermuda  This matter relates to civil as opposed to criminal issues.  However, the scenario is indicative of the unprofessionalism of the island whose affairs are conducted as though they exist in a vacuum, responsible to no other.  Bad judgment all around from the very people entrusted to run the island.  For a more interesting account that that supplied in the Bermuda Gazette, see: The Times.  

An English barrister has made a scathing attack on Governor Thorold Masefield and Justice Dennis Mitchell for their roles in the botched Thyssen case. Writing in the London Times newspaper yesterday, David Pannick said: “The astonishing saga of Mr. Justice Mitchell and the Thyssen trial in Bermuda provides an object lesson in bad judgment, and not just by the judge.”

Mr. Pannick gave a very brief summary of the trial before explaining why Mr. Justice Mitchell decided to quit the Island and the case before criticising his professional skills. Mr. Pannick went on to say: “(Mr. Justice Mitchell) was unable to maintain proper case management to ensure that the litigation was conducted efficiently.  “His squabbles with the Governor and bizarre final speech indicate that he should be searching for a career that does not involve communication, diplomacy or fine judgment.”

Mr. Pannick said that the Thyssen case did nothing to enhance the reputation of any of the main characters or the legal system.

He wrote: “The baron and his family plainly have too much money and too little sense to settle the dispute without involving lawyers. The Governor should not have expected a novice judge to handle so complex a piece of litigation.”  Mr. Pannick said that some of the lawyers involved in the case should have done more to speed up proceedings and said that a large slice of the estimated $100 million in legal costs were enjoyed by members of the English legal profession.

According to Mr. Pannick, Governor Masefield has now agreed with the Lord Chancellor’s department in London that an English High Court Judge, Probably Justice Lightman will take charge of the proceedings.  Mr. Pannick said: “I confidently predict that the new judge will reach an agreement with authorities over relevant terms and conditions and that the case will be completed in considerably less than three years.”

Mr. Pannick concluded his article by saying: “It is highly likely that, at the end of the day in court, the new judge might on occasion say to his family and friends: “I’ve had enough.” But no such announcement will be made in open court.”  Mr. Justice Mitchell quit the trial in March after he said an obscene amount of money had been wasted and the strain was affecting his health and family life.

In a statement that is gaining notoriety in legal circles, he told the court: “To be blunt, I have had enough.

He also claimed he was brought to Bermuda under misleading circumstances and could not reach an agreement with the Governor as to the extension of his three year contract.  The trial involved Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Borne-misza who was suing his eldest son Georg over an estimated $2.7 billion fortune.  The baron, now 80, signed over the family business and fortune to a continuity trust created in 1983 which immediately made his son Georg the principal beneficiary.  He is claiming that the trust and his son owe him $232 million in arrears with inflation and loss of value, and wants to wrest back control of the empire.

The trial originally started in October 1999, after two years of legal wrangles over what evidence could not be submitted. The trial had been stopped for over six months for legal clarifications, and the opening statements from the Baron’s lawyers took 15 months to complete. There were 121,959 documents entered into evidence for the case before it was halted, and an average of 600 pages of transcripts a week




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